Doctors Draw from Lab Tests Most of All
Posted on Thursday, December 31st, 2009
Testing Daily: Medical technologists in the laboratory of Mercy Health/Love County Hospital, Clinic, and EMS include (front) Gay Galano, Olivia Sunga, Elmer Denoso, and (back) Carolene Thompson, laboratory services director Kelvin McMillan, and Dunhill Casipong. Not pictured: Richard Acayan, medical technologist, Tad Hall, PA, and Dr. Ron Fattor.
Laboratory tests are the most frequently-performed procedures at Mercy Health/Love County Hospital, Clinic and EMS.
More than 100,000 exams will be administered to patients this year.
They are basic parts of routine checkups and ongoing care.
Medical technologists check samples of blood, urine, and body tissues to help doctors diagnose medical conditions and monitor diseases.
“The lab is here to confirm or refute a diagnosis. We are here to help the doctor. Our relationship with the patient is to collect the sample. The doctor goes over test results with the patient,” explained Kelvin McMillan, who became fulltime laboratory services director in October.
McMillan and his wife, Ava, a medical histology/pathology assistant, are longtime Marietta residents and have 30 years of experience in laboratory advisement.
Their most recent engagement, prior to joining Mercy Health System, involved setting up a laboratory in a new prison hospital in Lindsay.
Ava continues to advise laboratories, particularly in the complicated area of federal regulations.
The McMillans met and married in their hometown of Colorado City, Texas in the late 1970’s.
Their two grown children are pursuing college degrees in the health field – daughter Danne in dietetics (nutrition and food science), and son Allyn in nursing.
Medical careers are booming, including for laboratory specialists. “I would advise kids in high school to take all the science and all the computer classes they can. The demand for med techs is huge,” McMillan said.
Over the years, computerized testing equipment has come to take the place of most microscope bench work.
McMillan pointed to the blood count machine in the lab as an example. “It gets results in one minute that used to take a technologist 5-20 minutes to accomplish.”
The trade-off, he said, is that technologists must keep the machinery calibrated and maintained.
“Good lab technologists have to be prepared for anything that comes in. An ER patient needs immediate results. We have to have the equipment ready 24 hours a day. One van crash on the highway with eight or nine people on board can overrun us in a hurry.”
Another advance McMillan observes is an ever-increasing ability to treat diseases such as HIV, cardiac, and cancer.
But treatment means frequent monitoring, and that brings patients back every few weeks for another round of laboratory tests.
“With the volume we have, we would have needed 20 people to run this lab in the old days,” said Elmer Denoso, on staff since April.
Olivia Sunga, also new this year, likes the multitasking. “This is a small lab. We have to help each other and work in all sections. I’ve worked in bigger places, but I love this because the staff is tight-knit, family-like.”
Gay Galano joined the lab in 2003. She identified Mondays and Fridays as the busiest days. “We see lots of people but we have time to concentrate on doing high quality work.”
Dunhill Casipong is the newest medical technologist. He helped supervise a large lab in the Philippines before moving to Marietta four months ago. “I miss my girlfriend and family, but I’ve seen my first snow and I’m sure I’m in the right place,” he said.
Carolene Thompson is the lab member patients are most likely to see. A certified phlebotomist, she draws blood samples.
“I know almost everybody in Love County and I take pride in making patients comfortable and at ease.”
She and McMillan acknowledged that needles are a problem for most people and a real phobia for some. “The key is to talk in a nice tone and carry on a conversation,” McMillan said.
Thompson keeps a roll of fun stickers and hand games for child patients. “I show them the needle and tell them how it will feel, that it won’t last long, and then they can get something from the toy box. They ‘brave up’ lots better than adults a lot of the time.”
As for teens, Thompson uses the occasion to promote education beyond high school.
“I speak from my own experience. I was a cook and custodian for many years before deciding to go to vo-tech in medical technology. I had to wait seven years for an opening in this department in 2008.
“One of my daughters is in nursing school and another works in the surgery department in Ardmore. A degree means everything. Do it before having a family and a busy life,” she said.
Richard Acayan, medical technologist, and Tad Hall, PA, round out the lab staff as part-time workers. Dr. Ron Fattor, Ardmore pathologist, is medical director of the laboratory.